Daily December Devotional — Day 25

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:16-20

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Today’s Questions:

How do you think the shepherds explained what they had been told about the newborn child?

Have you ever overheard people saying good things about your parent, or child, or spouse, or friend? How did it make you feel?

Think of a time you experienced something – a beautiful sunset, a feeling, words from someone else, an unexplained mercy – that you could not quite put into words for another person. Have you been able to treasure and ponder that experience? How?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, when I read what happened, and imagine the way the shepherds must have explained to their friends, their family, and even strangers, about the arrival of the Savior, I am amazed! When I think of what Mary must have felt as she heard people describing what her son was, what he would be, and all he would do! How is it that I could ever come to see this event as run-of-the-mill, boring, or just another story? Help it sink in, Lord! Block out all the other noise and distractions that pull at me. Thank you for the blessings and mercies you have given to my heart alone. When you bless me this way, Lord, I pray that I will treasure it deeply.

Daily December Devotional — Day 24

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:13-15

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom
his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

In Latin Vulgate, “Glory to God in the highest” is translated “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.”

Today’s Questions:

Why do you think the company of heavenly host appeared to praise God before the shepherds?

How do you picture the shepherds as the angels descended and began singing? What did they do? How did they feel?

Can you think of a time when you said, “I can’t believe that happened!”? What were you referring to? Was it something you could see or touch or hear?

Today’s Prayer:

Oh Father, thank you that Jesus happened. Here. On earth! Thank you that you came to be with us, Immanuel. Thank you for yet another reminder that Jesus isn’t a concept, but someone who happened, someone who occurred and came to pass. Lord, I want to be a person who sings, “Glory to God in the highest!” Glory to you, Lord, not to me. When your glory is revealed, let me be the first to sing your praise, to go and see, to stand in awe. Let this not just be a refrain I sing, but a life I live.

Daily December Devotional — Day 23

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:8-12

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Today’s Questions:

Why do you think God chose to have his angel declare the good news of the arrival of the Savior to shepherds living in the fields (as opposed to people in town; a family in a home; or the Jews at the temple)?

Why do you think the initial reaction to the Lord’s angels, by Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds, was fear?

When and how did you first come to realize your need to be saved? How did you feel when you came to the realization?

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, thank you for the day you revealed to me not only my need for a savior, but also the availability of the Savior. Thank you, Lord, that you met my need with your grace; my sin with your forgiveness; my darkness with your light. There are days I forget the good news: you have saved me. Minor irritants, insignificant hurts, small resentments, and paralyzing fears pull me off course. How can I forget that you’ve set me free and called me higher? Help me to remember, Father. Help me to lay down my pride and fear. Help me to be patient, bring my hurt to your healing hand, and manifest your grace and love.

Daily December Devotional — Day 22

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:6-7

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Today’s Questions:

How do you picture Mary’s reaction when she first held Jesus?

What words come to mind when you think of a newborn baby?

Why do you think God chose to come into the world by being born as a baby? Why not just appear as an adult?

Today’s Prayer:

Most High God, how could you have subjected yourself to the weakness and vulnerability it is to be a human baby? I have dreamed of being greater, stronger, immortal. I have never sought to become weak, vulnerable, or subject to death. How could you have left all the riches of heaven for the suffering that awaited you here on earth? I don’t understand your love, Father. Help me to just receive it. Thank you, Lord, for the way you came, the way you know, the way you save.

Daily December Devotional — Day 21

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:1-5:

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

Caesar Augustus was the first emperor of Rome and ruled from 27 B.C. until 14 A.D. A census was taken in order to effectively tax all those living in the Roman Empire. Scholars believe Quirinius was in office for two terms – 6-4 B.C. and 6-9 A.D – and a census was taken during each. The prophet Micah prophesied that the Messiah would come out of Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2) The prophet Jeremiah prophesied that the Messiah would come from the line of David. (Jeremiah 23:5) Bethlehem was about 80 miles south of Nazareth.

Today’s Questions:

Does the historical context that Luke gives hold any importance to you as you read this passage?

Consider what it would have been like for Mary and Joseph to travel 80 miles by foot and/or donkey in order to take part in the census. What would your response to such a directive have been? How would you have felt as you walked 80 miles?

Where would your thoughts take you as you walked mile upon mile, knowing that the child you were expecting was the long-awaited Messiah? What kinds of fears? Doubts?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, thank you for your Word. Thank you for the reminder that this is not a fairy tale, but that it happened in a real place, during a real time. Help me to remember, God, that Jesus was born into this very world that I live in, the same earth, the same sun and moon and stars. Help me to remember that Jesus is not a concept, a set of rules, a made-up character. Jesus happened in history and you used two human beings with hands and feet and fear like mine to carry out your purposes. I pray, Lord, that you would strengthen me for the assignment you have for me, that I can exercise strong faith and unbending trust to do everything you ask of me. Use my hands, my feet. Allay my fears. Settle my doubts. Rid me of my selfishness. Oh, Father, use me for your purposes in this world.

Daily December Devotional — Day 20

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:76-80

And you, my child, will be called a
prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to
prepare the way for him,

to give his people the knowledge of
salvation
through forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us
from heaven

to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.

And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

Today’s Questions:

Why do you think it was necessary for John to prepare the way for the Lord by giving people knowledge of salvation through forgiveness of sins?

When did you first hear about salvation through the forgiveness of sins? What was your initial response?

Are there areas in your life in which you have resisted the light that Jesus brings?

Why do you think John lived in the wilderness before appearing to share the message of salvation?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, thank you for saving me, for forgiving me, for shining your light on me! Help me to share the message of your salvation through forgiveness with my family and friends. Help me to reflect your love by infusing me with your tender mercy. In times of sadness or temptation, Lord, I long for your light. I pray that you would invade every area of my heart, every grudge, resentment, and hurt. Shine your light in my darkness and transform my heart so that it reflects your love and peace.

Daily December Devotional — Day 19

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:67-75

His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and
redeemed them.

He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David

(as he said through his holy prophets of
long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us –

to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father
Abraham:

to rescue us from the hand of our
enemies
and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before
him all our days.”

Today’s Questions:

What does “redeem” mean?

Why did God come to redeem us?

To __________ mercy to our ancestors;

To _______________ his holy covenant;

To _______________ us from the hand of our enemies; and

To _______________ us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness.

Do you live like you have been redeemed – like you have been rescued and like you have been enabled to serve God without fear? Or, do you live like you are still waiting to be rescued and enabled?

Today’s Prayer:

Thank you, Lord God, for coming to redeem us! Thank you that you have redeemed me – that I am now in your hands, bought back, rescued, freed, and able to serve you without fear. Forgive me when I forget and live as if you never came, as if you never purchased me with the blood of Jesus. Forgive me when I act out of fear or wear my old rags instead of the righteousness of Christ. Help me get back on track when I get fuzzy on the mission – to serve you. You redeemed me so that I am able to serve you. I live to serve you, Lord. Use me. Empower me.

Daily December Devotional — Day 18

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:59-66

On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

Then they made signs to his father to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

The name “John” means “The Lord is gracious” or “The Lord shows grace.”

Today’s Questions:

Why do you think it was important that Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son be named John?

In Luke 1:17 Zechariah was told that John would “bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God” and “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” How might understanding or seeing God’s grace make us ready to turn our hearts toward him?

Can you identify the last time you were astonished or awed by an expression of God’s grace in your life? What was your response?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, let me see your grace. Keep my heart ready and free my tongue to praise you. If you need to shut my mouth and make me silent, do it. If you need to bring me low or break my heart, do it, Lord. Do whatever it takes if I turn away from you. Prepare the way by your grace for my return.

Daily December Devotional — Day 17

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:56-60

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

Today’s Questions:

What do you think it must have been like for Mary and Elizabeth to wait month after month for their babies to come given the circumstances of their pregnancies?

Can you think of a time that you had to wait for something that seemed like it would never happen? Describe it and the emotions attached.

Describe a time that you truly shared in someone else’s joy. What about a time you felt more envy than joy when someone else experienced a great mercy or blessing?

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, please forgive me. I am impatient. I doubt you. I think you’ve forgotten me. I forget your blessings. I pray, Lord, that you would increase my patience and help me to see you in the midst of this season. I don’t want to miss you here, now. Help me to rejoice with others as you bless them or extend them mercy. So often, I feel envy instead of sharing in their joy. I know you are endlessly good. Remind me, Father, that you do not and will not run out of goodness.

Daily December Devotional — Day 16

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:53-55

He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.

Today’s Questions:

Can you call to mind the last time you felt physically hungry? What kind of symptoms did you have that made you know you were hungry?

Have you ever felt a similar kind of hunger for God, a kind of restlessness or desire in your soul? How was that hunger satisfied?

What things, attitudes, or people pull you away from God?

Today’s Prayer:

Oh, Father, I long for you. Though success, affirmation, and adoration lure me away, and though fear, failure, and disappointment threaten to overwhelm me, my soul searches for you alone. My spirit reaches out, longing for your peace, joy, and life. Fill the ache in me with your presence today. Pour your love into my hungry heart. Remind me of your promises and your mercy. I am yours.